Frequently Asked Questions about Network Management
Virgin Mobile provides wireless broadband Internet to its customers using the Sprint Wireless Data Network.
Virgin Mobile and Sprint are committed to providing the best wireless broadband Internet access service experience possible for all of its customers. To ensure that all users enjoy the best possible network experience, Sprint uses reasonable network management practices that are consistent with industry standards. Sprint also prohibits certain wireless data customers from engaging in certain data uses. Information concerning these prohibited uses can be found in Virgin Mobile point-of-sale materials and online in our Important Terms of Service found at www.virginmobileusa.com/legal/terms-of-service
The following Frequently Asked Questions are intended to help clarify for Virgin Mobile customers what we mean by network management and explain Sprint's network management techniques and approaches.
Why does Sprint manage its network?
Sprint manages its network with the goal of delivering the best possible wireless broadband Internet access experience to all of its retail customers. Wireless network resources are not infinite. Managing the network is essential to promote the use and enjoyment of wireless data by all network users. Sprint uses reasonable network management practices that are consistent with industry standards. Sprint also strives to use tools and technologies that are intended to be minimally intrusive. Just as the Internet continues to change and evolve, so too, will Sprint's network management practices to address the challenges and threats on the Internet.
If Sprint didn't manage its network, network users would be subject to the negative effects of spam, viruses, security attacks, network congestion, and other risks and degradations of the service. By engaging in reasonable and responsible network management, Sprint can deliver the best possible broadband Internet access experience to all users of the network.
How does Sprint manage its network?
Sprint uses various tools and techniques to manage its network, allow Virgin Mobile to deliver our service and ensure compliance with our prohibited network use and related requirements, which are available in Virgin Mobile point-of-sale materials and online at www.virginmobileusa.com/legal/general-terms-and-conditions. These tools and techniques are dynamic, like the Sprint network and its usage, and Sprint may update the tools and techniques it uses. Sprint's network management activities may include identifying spam and preventing its delivery to customers, detecting malicious Internet traffic and preventing the distribution of viruses or other harmful code or content, and using other tools and techniques that Sprint may be required to implement in order to meet its goal of allowing Virgin Mobile to deliver the best possible broadband Internet experience to all of its customers.
Does network management change over time?
Yes. The wireless industry is highly dynamic. As the Internet and related technologies continue to evolve and advance, Sprint's network management tools will evolve and keep pace so that we can deliver an excellent, reliable and safer online experience to all of our customers. We will provide updates here and in other appropriate locations if we make important or significant changes to our network management techniques.
How does congestion management work?
Network bandwidth isn't infinite. In times of network congestion, the network segment or sector impacted doesn't have enough bandwidth to fully serve all customers requesting it. The network must essentially decide how to allocate the available bandwidth to the customers using it in a way that is fair to all users. The fairness algorithms below describe the approach. The resulting impact to end user experience is that the user may temporarily experience slower-than-normal data speeds until the congestion has passed.
- On the Sprint 3G network (a third generation network that follows the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) standard), Sprint uses a proportional fairness scheduler algorithm that allocates network resources based on radio frequency signal quality and other metrics. During times of congestion, the proportional fairness scheduler algorithm ensures no one user is deprived of network resources.
- On the Sprint 4G network, a fourth generation network that follows the WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) standard, Sprint may periodically measure a user's bandwidth usage on a specific network segment or sector, as well as measure the overall bandwidth usage for all users on that segment or sector. At times when an individual user is consuming high amounts of bandwidth and at the same time the overall bandwidth is being used by all users on that network segment or sector at high levels, Sprint 4G customers may experience a temporary adjustment in available network resources until the conditions for network congestion have passed.
Sprint is constantly upgrading networks. These network upgrades may include revised or improved tools and techniques to manage network congestion and ensure that all users have appropriate access to the network in times of congestion.
Does Sprint employ any type of data compression or optimization on the Sprint network today?
Yes, Sprint deploys Network Optimization capabilities for video and web traffic on the Sprint Wireless Network. Intent is to improve overall user experience and increase network efficiency. Optimization improves page load times and reduces video stalling. The optimization technology eliminates wasted data transmission that results from lack of coordination between applications, network, and device, for example stopping transmission of video after a customer has stopped viewing it. It also matches media transmission quality to the capability of the device viewing the media. Optimization reduces network data tonnage, freeing up capacity for an overall better network experience for all Sprint customers.
What specific types of optimization does Sprint employ?
Optimization is deployed for RTSP and HTTP video traffic and all HTTP web traffic. Video optimization uses four basic technologies:
- Video Delivery Synchronization: Delivers video "just in time" to the mobile device. Intent is to eliminate network waste associated with transmitting video that isn't watched.
- Quality aware Transcoding. Matches video quality with network conditions in real time. Optimizes video for the bandwidth available to the user. Intent is to minimize or eliminate annoying video stalling. Similar in concept to the optimization techniques already employed by sites using adaptive streaming.
- Video Transcoding: Transcodes video with intent to optimize the video experience for the user while efficiently using network bandwidth. Eliminates video waste using techniques like replacing less efficient video codecs with more efficient ones. Optimizes video for the device the customer is using.
- Intelligent Caching: Caches optimized video in the network to eliminate delay associated with internet video sites.
Web optimization uses three basic technologies:
- Caching: Caches web pages to avoid delays associated with retrieval of the same internet content multiple times
- Text/Binary compression: Lossless compression of data and binary files using standard compression techniques supported by HTTP-compliant browsers.
- Image Compression: JPEG and GIF compression designed to reduce the size of images while maintaining no user perceptible loss of quality.
Do device software upgrades affect the performance of my device on Sprint's network?
From time to time, Sprint may push software updates to your device to improve device features, security, and performance. These updates may include components that optimize the way your device and application on the device use network resources by, for example, managing connections between a user's wifi networks and the Sprint network or by managing the intervals at which certain background application connect to the network. Updates that manage radio resources are intended to improve performance and device battery life while at the same maintaining a high quality user experience.
Does congestion management target peer-to-peer ("P2P") or other applications or make decisions about the content of my traffic?
No. However Virgin Mobile's Terms and conditions prohibit some uses of Internet access. Virgin Mobile reserves the right to take action when customers violate these terms and conditions including blocking the traffic, slowing the customer's effective data speeds, or discontinuing a customer's service. Below is the prohibit data use portion of the plan specific terms of Service:
If your plan includes data services, such services are provided solely for purposes of web browsing, messaging, & similar activities. Examples of Prohibited Use of our data services include but are not limited to use thereof (1) with server devices or host computer applications, or other systems that drive continuous heavy traffic or data sessions, including, but not limited to, disproportionate Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections, peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications broadcast to multiple servers or recipients such that they could enable "bots" or similar routines; (2) as a substitute or backup for private lines or frame relay connections; (3) to send or receive unusually high numbers of messages (4) to engage in atypical web usage behaviors; (5) for tethering your device to a personal computer or other hardware; & (6) for any other reason that, in our sole discretion harms our network.
How does congestion management impact me and my use data services?
Most customers will notice no change in their wireless data experience due to Sprint's congestion management. If a user notices it at all, congestion management will be experienced as a slowness of data speeds compared to their normal experience. The goal of congestion management is to enable all users to have access to a fair share of the network at peak times, when congestion occasionally occurs.
How often does Sprint expect to use congestion management?
Because of the peaked nature of wireless data traffic, congestion management software is actively looking for network congestion at all times. When it detects congestion, the fairness algorithms described above allocate available bandwidth to the users requesting services in an attempt to provide the best possible service to all users and to ensure that no user is starved of bandwidth.
Sprint monitors how user traffic is affected by congestion management and makes adjustments as reasonably necessary to ensure that our wireless data users have a high-quality wireless broadband Internet access experience. Sprint also evaluates its overall network performance and enhances its network by adding capacity or making other network adjustments to address congestion and performance issues.
How much bandwidth would I have to consume to trigger Sprint's network management? For example, how many movies would I have to download to be affected by congestion management?
Since congestion management is dynamic and works in real time, the answer depends on a number of factors including overall usage, time of day, and the number of customers trying to use wireless data on a given tower. First, the local tower must be approaching a congested state before congestion management algorithms activate. On Sprint's 3G CDMA network, the proportional fairness scheduler algorithm ensures no one user is deprived of network resources.
On the Sprint 4G WiMAX network, when a user is consuming high amounts of bandwidth and the overall bandwidth being used on that network segment or sector is being used at high levels, Sprint 4G customers experience a temporary adjustment in available network resources until the conditions for network congestion have passed. Just as on the 3G network, users during peak congestion might find certain high data usage applications, such as streaming video, could be temporarily interrupted to ensure that other users have access to the network.
The point of the technique is to deliver the best overall online experience possible. The technique should help ensure that all customers get their fair share of bandwidth resources to enjoy all that the Internet has to offer and that includes surfing the web, reading email, downloading movies, watching streaming video, gaming or listening to music.
How will customers know they are being managed?
In general, users won't know when congestion management algorithms are being used. Wireless networks are shared resource networks meaning that customers on a specific cell site share the available bandwidth at the site. Congestion management algorithms are active in the network 100 percent of the time to allocate available bandwidth to users in a way that benefits all users on the network.
Does congestion management apply to both 3G and 4G services?
How does congestion management relate to the various monthly data usage thresholds?
They are two separate issues. Congestion management works to optimize the experience of all users in the congested area. It works independent of any caps or overage charges that may apply based on the user's price plan and monthly usage.
Do Virgin Mobile labeled products such as Virgin Mobile Live have precedent over other applications?
No. They are treated just like any other data application on the network and traffic from these applications is subject to the same congestion management controls as any other Internet traffic.
Does Sprint discriminate against particular types of online content?
No. Sprint and Virgin Mobile strive to deliver to our retail customers access to all the lawful content that the Internet has to offer. However, we are committed to protecting customers from spam, phishing, and other unwanted or harmful online content and activities. Sprint uses industry standard tools and generally accepted best practices and policies to help it meet this customer commitment. In cases where these tools and policies identify certain online content as harmful and unwanted, such as spam or phishing Web sites, this content is usually prevented from reaching customers. In other cases, these tools and policies may permit customers to identify certain content that is not clearly harmful or unwanted, such as bulk email or Web sites with questionable security ratings, and enable those customers to inspect the content further if they want to do so.
Does Sprint employ network security practices in addition to the congestion management technique?
Yes. Sprint uses normal industry security practices to protect the Sprint network elements from unauthorized access and attack.
Does Sprint have rules regarding the attachment of devices to its network by customers?
Yes. Only Sprint-approved devices may be used on the Sprint network.
Where can I find additional information regarding the performance of Virgin Mobile on the Sprint network?
Information concerning Sprint's coverage and network performance can be found using our coverage tool which can be found at: www.virginmobileusa.com/check-cell-phone-coverage. Below is some additional information regarding coverage, speed and latency on the Sprint networks.
Sprint regularly measures the performance, coverage and speed of its 3G and 4G data networks in an effort to ensure coverage maps are accurate and up to date. Users of the Sprint 4G network can expect to experience average speeds of 3Mbps to 6Mbps download and up to 1.5Mbps upload with an average latency of 150ms. On the Sprint 3G network, users can expect to experience average speeds of 600Kbps - 1.4Mbps download and 350Kbps - 500Kbps upload with an average latency of 400ms. While on the Nationwide Sprint Network you can expect to experience average speeds of 50Kbps - 70Kbps download and upload with an average latency of 800ms. The average speed and latency of our 4G and 3G networks are suitable for video and audio streaming, web browsing and other general Internet usage consistent with Sprint's terms and conditions. The average speed and latency on the Nationwide Sprint Network is suitable for web browsing and other light data applications. Speeds may vary considerably from these averages when users are on one of Sprint's roaming partner networks.
Our coverage maps and average speed and latency are high-level estimates when using your device outdoors under optimal conditions and are based on a combination of independent third-party testing and Sprint generated results. Coverage isn't available everywhere. Estimating wireless coverage and signal strength is not an exact science.
There are gaps in coverage within our estimated coverage areas that, along with other factors both within and beyond our control (network problems, software, signal strength, your wireless device, structures, buildings, weather, geography, topography, etc.), will result in dropped and blocked connections, slower data speeds, or otherwise impact the quality of services.
Services that rely on location information, such as E911 and GPS navigation, depend on your device's ability to acquire satellite signals (typically not available indoors) and network coverage. E911 services also depend on local emergency service provider systems/support. Estimated future coverage subject to change.
Where can I find additional pricing and other terms and conditions for Virgin Mobile broadband internet access?
Virgin Mobile Terms of Service and Important Service/Product Specific Terms, including guidelines on such topics as service plans, activation procedures, data usage and dispute resolution, can be viewed here: www.virginmobileusa.com/legal/general-terms-and-conditions.
Detailed information on all of Virgin Mobile broadband internet access service plans for phones, broadband cards, laptops, tablets, mobile hotspots, and more can be found on Virgin Mobile's online shopping pages at: www.virginmobileusa.com/shop.html.
What is the Virgin Mobile policy for online privacy?
What should I do if I have a question or concerns related to my Virgin Mobile broadband internet access?
For questions that are not answered in this page, Virgin Mobile customers may contact customer care at 1-888-322-1122, by dialing 611, for Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go, by contacting customer care at 1-877-877-8443 or by any of the methods listed on our customer service contact page located at: https://www1.virginmobileusa.com/about/prepareEmailUs.do. For information on resolving disputes with Virgin Mobile, Please review our terms and conditions under the heading "Dispute Resolution" located here: www.virginmobileusa.com/general-terms-and-conditions.